Montreal police dismantle pro-Palestine encampment in financial district News
WikiFouf, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Montreal police dismantle pro-Palestine encampment in financial district

The Montreal Police Force dismantled a pro-Palestine encampment on Friday which had been situated in Victoria Square, located in the financial district of Canada’s second-largest city. The police acted under orders of the City of Montreal, which is headed by Mayor Valérie Plante. Plante said that a municipal bylaw which prohibits unauthorised use of public spaces was used in this case.

The location of the encampment was strategic as it was in proximity to the headquarters of the pension fund company CDPQ. The aim was to pressure the company to divest from companies associated with Israel.

The dismantling of the two-week-old encampment began early at 5 am and continued until after 8:00 am. Both the local police and municipal workers were involved in clearing out the tents, and protestors were allowed to go back to get their belongings. Whereas Plante said that the entire process was calm and collaborative, one protestor, Emma Jaubert, said to a news outlet that the police were aggressive in the dismantlement.

Plante reasoned that while the right to protest is available to all Canadians and for all sorts of causes, restricting access to a public space indefinitely is unacceptable as a matter of administrative and public concern.

Pro-Palestine encampments have sprung up around university campuses in Canada and the US, all of which have been contentious as they have the potential to escalate ethnic, regional and religious differences. The present encampment on McGill’s campus began in late April. The university administration has constantly been trying to shut down the encampment since then out of concern about the divisiveness it can create on campus. With the removal of the encampment in Victoria Square, the only major pro-Palestine encampment that remains in the city is the one located on the campus of McGill University.

In June, the Office of the McGill President and Vice-Chancellor released an update on the situation which highlighted concerns for safety and the offer they had made to the protestors. The three-point offer included “exploring divestment from weapons manufacturers, funding scholars-at-risk, and increased investment disclosures,” but was ultimately rejected. Since then, the President of the University, Deep Saini, termed the encampment as an “illegal occupation, rather than a peaceful protest.” Following the dismantling of the encampment at Victoria Square, Saini expressed that “he has every expectation that the City and SPVM will remain consistent in their approach, and act swiftly to remove the encampment [at McGill] as well.”

Previously, the Superior Court of Québec refused to grant McGill University an interlocutory injunction to dismantle the pro-Palestine encampment on its campus. The court noted that there is no need for the court to interfere considering the lack of violence and the university’s ability to relocate their spring convocation ceremonies.